Monday, September 08, 2008

New Age Piano Interview: Tim Neumark

The following is an inteview I did with New Age pianist Tim Neumark. I asked Tim 5 questions I wish I had the answers to when I first started out. Enjoy!

Edward: How Did You Get Started Playing New Age Piano?

Tim: I started playing the piano around age 17. I had always been interested in the piano, but it wasn't until 17 that I finally had my parents by me a keyboard (only 61 keys!) and I finally started playing. We did not have a piano in our house.

The first New Age CDs I owned were Yanni Live at the Acropolis and a couple David Lanz CDs. I learned to play the pieces by ear, using the sheet music when I couldn't quite figure out what I was hearing. The David Lanz Christmas Eve CD was a great album to learn -- not only did I have pieces to play, but I had a reason to play them publicly! I played his pieces during advent season at churches for a couple years, then I moved on to playing my own compositions!

Edward: What Inspires and Informs Your Music?

Tim: My music is primarily inspired by people and places, and also by other music (typically classical). I have trouble writing music "just to write it"; I can easily write music when it characterizes something or someone. For example, I'm able to think of a person or place and write a song about it, but it is harder to just come up with some chords and a melody and then try to find a title! My debut CD Biography has liner notes describing the events that led to the composition of each song. I think these notes help explain the song to the listeners -- it really tells the listener that the song is more than a title with a pretty melody.

Edward: What Is Your Method for Composing a Piano Piece?

Tim: To compose, I do a lot of "doodling" on the piano, randomly playing harmonies and melodies until something clicks (or until the sound makes me think of a person or place). Sometimes I'll sit down and think "what can I play in B-flat?" or "I wonder what these chords will sound like in F# minor".

Then I may hear something and just improvise on it until I find something worth developing into a song. It's always helpful to record while "doodling" so that I don't lose something after I've created it! After finding a basic tune, I try to find some sort of accompanying melody or melodies, and then I work on the structure of the piece. To me, the structure of a piece is just as important as the music itself. A listener should understand the direction of the song, be it ABCBA or more of the pop-style verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-end.
I always want my pieces to be familiar in sound and shape.

There are some pieces -- even those by composers who I like a lot -- where I'll say "why is this being played now" or "how did the song get here?" It is important for me to keep the audience understanding the shape of the piece. Another important point is to keep things simple -- every bar doesn't have to be brilliant, and not every piece has to be a masterpiece. I learned many David Lanz pieces because they were relatively easy for me to play, even though I had very little experience.

On my Biography album, every piece has been described to me as someone's favorite. This is very telling -- some of the pieces are quite simple to play and compose, and some are more complex! You don't have to write incredibly challenging music to make it wonderful for your audience.

Edward: Do You Get Blocked Creatively, and If So, How Do You Get Past It....?

The rest of this interview (along with many others) are available to Quiescence Music course members. Sign up now for just $1 dollar! More info at

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